Dim sum, a traditional Cantonese cuisine, is a style of Chinese dining where small plates of food are served with tea. It’s a popular weekend brunch activity for families and friends. But did you know dim sum can also shed a light on the history, culture, and innovation of Cantonese food? In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating world of dim sum, from its origin to modern adaptations, and how it has lit up the culinary scene.
History of Dim Sum
Dim sum originated in Guangdong province, China, during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). It was originally called “Yum Cha,” which means “drinking tea” in Cantonese. The first dim sum dishes were simple bites of food such as steamed buns and dumplings that were served with tea in roadside tea houses.
As dim sum evolved over the centuries, it became more complex and diverse, with new flavours and techniques being introduced. Dim sum gained popularity in the 19th century among the working class. It was a convenient and affordable way to enjoy a meal, and it soon became a social activity enjoyed by all.
Types of Dim Sum
Dim sum comes in many forms, from savoury to sweet dishes. Here are some popular types of dim sum you might find:
Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings)
Har Gow is the most iconic dim sum dish consisting of delicate and translucent dumpling wrappers filled with plump and juicy shrimp.
Chasu Bao (Steamed Barbecue Pork Buns)
Another classic, Chasu Bao, features pillowy steamed buns filled with sweet and savoury barbecue-flavoured pork.
Lo Ma Gai (Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf)
This savory dim sum dish combines glutinous rice, chicken, and Chinese sausage, wrapped in fragrant lotus leaves, then steamed until it’s tender and flavourful.
For a sweet dessert, Mango Pudding is a delightful treat of creamy mango-flavoured pudding that melts in your mouth.
Dim Sum Traditions
Dim sum is not just about the food, it also has a rich culture and tradition attached to it. Tea pouring is an essential part of dim sum, where servers walk around with teapots and refill the cups of customers. There’s also a specific order to the dishes, starting with the lightest, steamed options and progressing to heavier, fried dishes.
The act of sharing food is also an important part of dim sum, with dishes typically intended for two or more people. It’s a great way to bond and connect with family and friends.
While traditional dim sum remains popular, many chefs have started to modernise this classic cuisine, adding innovative twists to traditional dishes. For example, some restaurants are using unique ingredients like truffle and foie gras to elevate the flavours of the dim sum.
Vegetarian and fusion dim sum are also gaining traction, catering to different dietary requirements and offering a wider variety of flavours.